“Know thyself.” It’s an old saying, but one more business owners would do well to heed. There are many brand-related mistakes an entrepreneur can make, like overdoing an ad campaign or not being transparent about your products, but perhaps the biggest mistake an entrepreneur can make is having a poorly defined brand identity. And yet, it happens all the time.
Why is this such a big deal? Think about when you go to a job interview, you will probably dress a certain way, highlight key experience or maybe even modulate your voice to be different than it would be in casual conversation. Essentially, you’ve created a persona that you hope will be favorable to your employability. In this same way, your brand is the persona of a company, and it will be your customer’s first impression.
With that in mind, here are five airtight tips for developing a strong brand identity.
1. You’re selling your brand, not a product.
Product-centric marketing may have been the wisdom before, but now, in our rapid-fire digital age, you’ve got about 20 seconds to make your impression. And that’s just not long enough for the excellence of your product to shine through. What will keep your leads with you long enough to convert to sales is the impression, or perception, you cultivate, which basically means your brand. It won’t matter how good your product is if your brand doesn’t excite people: They will simply go elsewhere, and quickly.
2. Your brand should reflect who you really are.
Sure, you should think long and hard about what a customer wants to see and experience. That’s key. But it’s also key to think about who you are as a business, and to let that dictate your branding and marketing.
For example, if you are a web page designer who specializes in simple, modern designs, why is all your copy in an old-school serif font? Wouldn’t it make more sense for your stuff to be in something sleeker like Helvetica? These seem like minor decisions, but each informs the consumer’s sense of who you are and what you deliver. This creates a favorable, authentic relationship between your business and your customers, and buys you invaluable time for that relationship to gel before your client clicks away to a competitor.
3. You are only as good as your art and copy.
It’s important to stress the huge role that your art and copy has in making up your brand identity. Let’s say people go to your landing page and find a design relic from the Geocities era, along with copy that promotes your business as “specializing in the cross-platform application of digital solutions”. Not only will they not know what you do, they won’t care.
Your landing page should have descriptive copy that your potential clients can relate to, with design that reflects modern UX best practices. This applies no matter what your business is and how big you are.
4. It’s OK to rebrand.
You may have read this far and noticed some mistakes you’ve made in your own branding. Don’t worry. It’s perfectly okay to rebrand, particularly if you feel like you need to change your company’s perception in the eyes of potential clients. For instance, the venerable Ford is currently undergoing a major rebranding project to compete with modern car service companies like Uber and Lyft. If you rebrand sensibly, you won’t frighten away anybody: on the contrary, your business will grow. And this also applies to smaller companies: in 2013, a middling, security company called SafeMart evaluated its brand strategy and reemerged as LiveWatch. They’ve since won numerous industry awards and government grants.
5. Don’t resort to gimmicks.
One final tip, which is something of a mild warning: don’t substitute gimmicks for hard work and reflection. If your brand identity is not where it should be, no amount of crummy ebooks, webinars, or SEO strategies can save it.
Of course, all of the above can be useful strategies, but it’s a matter of putting first things first. Figure out who you are, what you have to offer, and what people need. You owe it not just to your clients, but also to yourself.